Admission to the graduate programs in communication at the University of Colorado Boulder is an extremely competitive process, with approximately 5–10 MA students and 5 PhD students admitted each year from approximately 75 applications. All PhD and MA students selected for admission are fully funded, although exceptions can exist.

Admission to the graduate programs is based on consideration of students’ entire academic performance, as assessed by indicators that include: (a) BA and MA grade point average, with university and department reputation taken into account; (b) Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores; (c) scholarly work published (e.g., in communication journals) and presented (e.g., at communication conferences and undergraduate honors conferences); (d) teaching experience and effectiveness (especially for PhD applicants); (e) letters of recommendations (preferably from professors familiar with students’ academic work); and, for PhD students, (f) a writing sample. Applicants from countries where English is not the first language must demonstrate excellent English-speaking skills to be admitted.

Of particular importance is a personal statement that describes how students’ academic background and qualifications have prepared them to conduct research at the graduate level and how their research interests fit with the goals, areas and courses offered in the graduate program and with graduate faculty members’ research and teaching foci.

The department also is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which diversity is a fundamental value. In selecting qualified applicants, additional consideration is given to prospective students whose presence will add to the diversity of the department, college, university and Boulder community.

Students are admitted to the MA and PhD programs such that they start in the fall semester. In some cases, however, students can be admitted starting in the spring semester, although funding, typically, is not available to them.

Students who are not seeking an MA or PhD degree but may be doing so in the future also sometimes can enroll in a graduate communication course through CU-Boulder’s Continuing Education ACCESS program.

  • Personal Statement: A 3–5 double-spaced page statement that describes students’ backgrounds and qualifications to conduct research and the graduate level, and how their research interests fit with the goals, areas, and courses offered in the communication graduate program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and with the research and teaching engaged in by department graduate faculty members. The statement also should indicate whether students wish to be considered for an assistantship (see financial support portion of the graduate program on this website).
  • Academic Vitae
  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate courses taken must be submitted. One copy from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended must be submitted, even if credits from one institution appear on the transcript of a second institution. Official transcripts will be requested if you are recommended for admission.
    1. For admission to the MA program, a BA degree or the equivalent is required. Special attention is given to grades in the major, and in the last 2 years of undergraduate study. A minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.20 (out of 4.00) is required, with most admitted students having a much higher overall GPA (e.g., for MA students admitted in 2014 and 2015, the average BA GPA from the university from which they graduated was 3.79). Although a major in communication (or a related field) is preferred, other academic and professional experiences are considered based on their relevance to the MA program of study.
    2. For admission to the PhD program, a BA degree and an MA, MS, or equivalent degree are required. A minimum MA overall GPA of 3.50 is required, with most admitted students having a much higher overall GPA (e.g., for PhD students admitted in 2014 and 2015, the average MA GPA was 3.96). Although an MA in communication (or a related field) is preferred, other academic and professional experiences will be considered based on their relevance to the PhD program of study.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores: Although there is no minimum GRE scores, typically, students are not admitted without a minimum Verbal Score of 156. GRE scores for graduate students admitted for Fall 2015 averaged 161 (Verbal), 152 (Quantitative), and 4.63 (Analytic Writing). The institution code for CU-Boulder is 4841.
  • Teaching Experience and Effectiveness (most applicable to PhD students): Students who have taught undergraduate courses should indicate on a separate page their teaching experience (e.g., courses taught and in what capacity, e.g., as a recitation or stand-alone course instructor). Students who have taught undergraduate courses in which they have been assessed for teaching effectiveness by undergraduate students (e.g., via teacher–course questionnaires) should submit a summary of those assessment results. Students also are welcome to submit other information about their teaching (e.g., syllabi).
  • Reference Letters: Three letters should be submitted, preferably from tenured/tenure-track professors at the BA institution attended (for MA applicants) and from the MA institution attended (for PhD applicants), although letters from other sources (e.g., instructors and employers) can be submitted. Letters should speak to students’ capability to be successful in pursuing graduate work (especially in terms of academic writing skills) in the respective degree program.
  • Graduate Student Funding Request:  This form can be found on the 'Additional Information' tab of the online application.
  • Nonrefundable Application Fee: Payable by credit card during the online submission of applications (checks or international money orders submitted must be payable in U.S. funds to the University of Colorado)
  • Writing Sample (see below for PhD essay requirements)

  • One Scholarly Written Essay: Only one writing sample can be submitted. The writing sample should be a self-contained original essay (e.g., not an MA thesis chapter that is taken out of context) that demonstrates the applicant’s best scholarly writing ability. The essay, preferably, is a single-authored scholarly publication or conference paper. No essays written with a faculty member may be submitted. All personal identification of the author should be removed so that it can be read blind and evaluated by CU-Boulder faculty members.

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFEL) Scores or acceptable equivalent examination: The required minimum TOEFL score is 75. Additionally, a phone or Skype interview is part of the application process. Applicants are exempt from this requirement if they have completed at least 1 year of full-time academic study at a U.S. institution at the time that they are applying for admission to the MA or PhD program, or if English is their native language.
  • A Financial Statement with the Required Documentation

  • Domestic (U.S. citizen) applications: December 1
  • International student applications: December 1

Official Transcripts should not be sent to the Department of Communication. Transcripts, along with other supporting materials that you choose not to upload to your application, should be sent directly to:

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine St Suite A122
553 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0553

For overnight or express mail send to:

Graduate Admissions
University of Colorado Boulder
3100 Marine Street – 553 UCB
Bldg RL3 Suite A122
Boulder, CO 80303-1058
(303) 492-6301

The department offers various forms of funding for graduate students, including teaching assistantships (TA positions) and graduate part-time instructor (GPTI) positions (GPTIs teach stand-alone courses), research assistantships, summer dissertation fellowships and summer research assistantships, professional travel awards and summer partial tuition fellowships. Each of these forms of funding is explained below.

Teaching Assistantships
Some graduate students are offered teaching assistantships (as TAs or as GPTIs). Generally, master’s students receive two years of funding and PhD students receive four years (in both cases, continuous from the first semester enrolled), unless they enter the PhD program directly from CU-Boulder’s MA communication program, in which case the typical funding for the master’s and PhD degrees combined is five years. Enrolled students who have not been funded may be appointed on a semester or yearly basis when funding is available.

TAs and GPTIs with half-time appointments are expected to devote, on average, approximately 20 hours per week to their teaching responsibilities. In addition to normal classroom responsibilities (e.g., preparing for classes, testing, and grading), they are expected to:

  • Attend fall and spring graduate student orientations and regularly scheduled teaching workshops
  • Meet regularly with any course supervisor(s)
  • Consult with the lead teaching assistant
  • Hold regular/consistent office hours
  • Arrange for evaluations of teaching performance (e.g., Faculty Course Questionnaires (FCQs) and classroom observations by course supervisor and by others)
  • Comply with department and university policies about teaching and examination schedules
  • Meet specific expectations for courses taught, as set by any course supervisor(s) and by good academic practice

Summer teaching often is available to graduate students, with assignments determined by the department chairperson on the basis of seniority, need and expertise. The summer pay schedule for GPTIs (the type of appointment) is: Term A: approximately 75 percent of total paycheck received on July 1, with remaining 25 percent received on July 31; Term B: approximately 75 percent of total paycheck received on July 31, with remaining 25 percent received on August 31.

TAs and GPTIs are evaluated on their teaching performance at the annual faculty review of graduate students. They also receive regular feedback from any course supervisors.

Lead Graduate Teacher Position: Each year, the department faculty appoints a graduate student to serve as the Lead Graduate Teacher (LGT), which is part of the Graduate Teacher Program. The graduate teacher program has two goals for graduate students who serve as lead graduate teachers (a) to develop the leads themselves as future academic managers, leaders, teachers and consultants; and (b) to assist departments with internal TA preparation to improve undergraduate education. Lead training focuses on academic management, leadership, college pedagogy, consultation and teamwork. Requirements include: serving as a liaison between the GTP and the department, meeting with the lead coordinators, negotiating and writing a plan that is acceptable to the GTP and to the department, presenting on GTP opportunities that are available to graduate students and faculty, consulting with TAs during office hours and in videotaped consultations, developing and presenting at least one discipline-specific workshop, working on a cross-disciplinary team, and turning in a final report.

Lead graduate teachers also do a TA support activity of their choice within the department. LGTs must have excellent working relationships with the chairperson, associate chair of graduate studies, and graduate program assistant; preference is given to those with an average score of 3.0 or better on the Faculty Course Questionnaire (FCQ) for courses previously taught, five to six semesters of teaching experience, and continued progress toward completion of the GTP certificate in teaching or professional development. LGTs receive a 6 percent administrative intern appointment, and they receive the Best Should Teach Silver Award at the Best Should Teach Lecture that is given in August. LGTs are nominated and voted on by department faculty. Interested students should consult with their advisor and with the associate chair of graduate studies.

Research Assistantships
Some graduate students (typically PhD students) are offered research assistantships (RAs), typically across an academic year, which involve working for and with a faculty member on that faculty member’s research. To the extent possible, RAs are matched with faculty members who are engaged in research that connects to the RAs’ desired expertise area. RAs give students research-related experience that is part of their paid work and, thereby, helps them to build a stronger profile that will enable them to do better on the job market.

Summer Dissertation Fellowships and Summer Research Assistantships
The department receives monies from the graduate school and from gift accounts that make possible the awarding of summer dissertation fellowships and research assistantships (RAs) for selected students. The associate chair of graduate studies puts out a call for these awards early in the fall, with students applying for the summer dissertation fellowships and faculty members applying for graduate students to serve as RAs for the following summer. Students may apply for fellowships in more than one category, but cannot receive both awards. The graduate program committee reviews all applications received. Students receiving a summer dissertation fellowship or positions as RAs may not also teach in that summer.

  • Summer Dissertation Fellowships: Awarded to students to provide time to work on their dissertation. PhD students may be awarded only one dissertation fellowship during their program, typically in the summer after completion of the PhD comprehensive examination. Students submit to the associate chair of graduate studies a one-to-three paragraph description of the proposed dissertation work, along with a letter of support from their advisor.
  • Summer Research Assistantships: Awarded to support specific research projects under faculty supervision. Faculty members submit to the associate chair of graduate studies a one-to-three paragraph description of the proposed research project and the name and reasons for the graduate student selected. RAs work a total of 120 hours.

Professional Travel Awards
Professional travel awards are given to students traveling to present scholarship at professional conferences (in addition to any other university travel support). The associate chair of graduate studies puts out a call for these awards early in the fall with a due date in September, with students applying for travel awards by indicating the professional presentation that has been accepted or that will be submitted. Students must apply at that time for any expected travel during that academic year; no funding is available for professional travel after that time. The typical range of awards is $100–$600.

Summer Partial Tuition Fellowships
Summer partial tuition fellowships are awarded to graduate students taking Maymester or summer courses. The maximum award is $300.

You will be able to see what has been accepted and marked complete, and what is still required to complete your application on your MyCUBoulder page.

Online Application Portal

Online Application FAQ

Application Instructions for International Students

Application Mailing Instructions for Domestic and International Students

For additional information about application forms or status of an application, contact: 

Professor Ted Striphas
Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
Department of Communication
University of Colorado Boulder
ted.striphas@Colorado.EDU
(303) 492-9872